October 23, 2019  |  

SAPTA: a new design tool for improving TALE nuclease activity.

Transcription activator-like effector nucleases (TALENs) have become a powerful tool for genome editing due to the simple code linking the amino acid sequences of their DNA-binding domains to TALEN nucleotide targets. While the initial TALEN-design guidelines are very useful, user-friendly tools defining optimal TALEN designs for robust genome editing need to be developed. Here we evaluated existing guidelines and developed new design guidelines for TALENs based on 205 TALENs tested, and established the scoring algorithm for predicting TALEN activity (SAPTA) as a new online design tool. For any input gene of interest, SAPTA gives a ranked list of potential TALEN target sites, facilitating the selection of optimal TALEN pairs based on predicted activity. SAPTA-based TALEN designs increased the average intracellular TALEN monomer activity by >3-fold, and resulted in an average endogenous gene-modification frequency of 39% for TALENs containing the repeat variable di-residue NK that favors specificity rather than activity. It is expected that SAPTA will become a useful and flexible tool for designing highly active TALENs for genome-editing applications. SAPTA can be accessed via the website at http://baolab.bme.gatech.edu/Research/BioinformaticTools/TAL_targeter.html.


October 23, 2019  |  

TALENs facilitate targeted genome editing in human cells with high specificity and low cytotoxicity.

Designer nucleases have been successfully employed to modify the genomes of various model organisms and human cell types. While the specificity of zinc-finger nucleases (ZFNs) and RNA-guided endonucleases has been assessed to some extent, little data are available for transcription activator-like effector-based nucleases (TALENs). Here, we have engineered TALEN pairs targeting three human loci (CCR5, AAVS1 and IL2RG) and performed a detailed analysis of their activity, toxicity and specificity. The TALENs showed comparable activity to benchmark ZFNs, with allelic gene disruption frequencies of 15-30% in human cells. Notably, TALEN expression was overall marked by a low cytotoxicity and the absence of cell cycle aberrations. Bioinformatics-based analysis of designer nuclease specificity confirmed partly substantial off-target activity of ZFNs targeting CCR5 and AAVS1 at six known and five novel sites, respectively. In contrast, only marginal off-target cleavage activity was detected at four out of 49 predicted off-target sites for CCR5- and AAVS1-specific TALENs. The rational design of a CCR5-specific TALEN pair decreased off-target activity at the closely related CCR2 locus considerably, consistent with fewer genomic rearrangements between the two loci. In conclusion, our results link nuclease-associated toxicity to off-target cleavage activity and corroborate TALENs as a highly specific platform for future clinical translation. © The Author(s) 2014. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of Nucleic Acids Research.


October 23, 2019  |  

AAV-mediated delivery of zinc finger nucleases targeting hepatitis B virus inhibits active replication.

Despite an existing effective vaccine, hepatitis B virus (HBV) remains a major public health concern. There are effective suppressive therapies for HBV, but they remain expensive and inaccessible to many, and not all patients respond well. Furthermore, HBV can persist as genomic covalently closed circular DNA (cccDNA) that remains in hepatocytes even during otherwise effective therapy and facilitates rebound in patients after treatment has stopped. Therefore, the need for an effective treatment that targets active and persistent HBV infections remains. As a novel approach to treat HBV, we have targeted the HBV genome for disruption to prevent viral reactivation and replication. We generated 3 zinc finger nucleases (ZFNs) that target sequences within the HBV polymerase, core and X genes. Upon the formation of ZFN-induced DNA double strand breaks (DSB), imprecise repair by non-homologous end joining leads to mutations that inactivate HBV genes. We delivered HBV-specific ZFNs using self-complementary adeno-associated virus (scAAV) vectors and tested their anti-HBV activity in HepAD38 cells. HBV-ZFNs efficiently disrupted HBV target sites by inducing site-specific mutations. Cytotoxicity was seen with one of the ZFNs. scAAV-mediated delivery of a ZFN targeting HBV polymerase resulted in complete inhibition of HBV DNA replication and production of infectious HBV virions in HepAD38 cells. This effect was sustained for at least 2 weeks following only a single treatment. Furthermore, high specificity was observed for all ZFNs, as negligible off-target cleavage was seen via high-throughput sequencing of 7 closely matched potential off-target sites. These results show that HBV-targeted ZFNs can efficiently inhibit active HBV replication and suppress the cellular template for HBV persistence, making them promising candidates for eradication therapy.


October 23, 2019  |  

Codon swapping of zinc finger nucleases confers expression in primary cells and in vivo from a single lentiviral vector.

Zinc finger nucleases (ZFNs) are promising tools for genome editing for biotechnological as well as therapeutic purposes. Delivery remains a major issue impeding targeted genome modification. Lentiviral vectors are highly efficient for delivering transgenes into cell lines, primary cells and into organs, such as the liver. However, the reverse transcription of lentiviral vectors leads to recombination of homologous sequences, as found between and within ZFN monomers.We used a codon swapping strategy to both drastically disrupt sequence identity between ZFN monomers and to reduce sequence repeats within a monomer sequence. We constructed lentiviral vectors encoding codon-swapped ZFNs or unmodified ZFNs from a single mRNA transcript. Cell lines, primary hepatocytes and newborn rats were used to evaluate the efficacy of integrative-competent (ICLV) and integrative-deficient (IDLV) lentiviral vectors to deliver ZFNs into target cells.We reduced total identity between ZFN monomers from 90.9% to 61.4% and showed that a single ICLV allowed efficient expression of functional ZFNs targeting the rat UGT1A1 gene after codon-swapping, leading to much higher ZFN activity in cell lines (up to 7-fold increase compared to unmodified ZFNs and 60% activity in C6 cells), as compared to plasmid transfection or a single ICLV encoding unmodified ZFN monomers. Off-target analysis located several active sites for the 5-finger UGT1A1-ZFNs. Furthermore, we reported for the first time successful ZFN-induced targeted DNA double-strand breaks in primary cells (hepatocytes) and in vivo (liver) after delivery of a single IDLV encoding two ZFNs.These results demonstrate that a codon-swapping approach allowed a single lentiviral vector to efficiently express ZFNs and should stimulate the use of this viral platform for ZFN-mediated genome editing of primary cells, for both ex vivo or in vivo applications.


October 23, 2019  |  

Simultaneous non-contiguous deletions using large synthetic DNA and site-specific recombinases.

Toward achieving rapid and large scale genome modification directly in a target organism, we have developed a new genome engineering strategy that uses a combination of bioinformatics aided design, large synthetic DNA and site-specific recombinases. Using Cre recombinase we swapped a target 126-kb segment of the Escherichia coli genome with a 72-kb synthetic DNA cassette, thereby effectively eliminating over 54 kb of genomic DNA from three non-contiguous regions in a single recombination event. We observed complete replacement of the native sequence with the modified synthetic sequence through the action of the Cre recombinase and no competition from homologous recombination. Because of the versatility and high-efficiency of the Cre-lox system, this method can be used in any organism where this system is functional as well as adapted to use with other highly precise genome engineering systems. Compared to present-day iterative approaches in genome engineering, we anticipate this method will greatly speed up the creation of reduced, modularized and optimized genomes through the integration of deletion analyses data, transcriptomics, synthetic biology and site-specific recombination. © The Author(s) 2014. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of Nucleic Acids Research.


October 23, 2019  |  

Vector design Tour de Force: integrating combinatorial and rational approaches to derive novel adeno-associated virus variants.

Methodologies to improve existing adeno-associated virus (AAV) vectors for gene therapy include either rational approaches or directed evolution to derive capsid variants characterized by superior transduction efficiencies in targeted tissues. Here, we integrated both approaches in one unified design strategy of “virtual family shuffling” to derive a combinatorial capsid library whereby only variable regions on the surface of the capsid are modified. Individual sublibraries were first assembled in order to preselect compatible amino acid residues within restricted surface-exposed regions to minimize the generation of dead-end variants. Subsequently, the successful families were interbred to derive a combined library of ~8?×?10(5) complexity. Next-generation sequencing of the packaged viral DNA revealed capsid surface areas susceptible to directed evolution, thus providing guidance for future designs. We demonstrated the utility of the library by deriving an AAV2-based vector characterized by a 20-fold higher transduction efficiency in murine liver, now equivalent to that of AAV8.


October 23, 2019  |  

Gene targeting by the TAL effector PthXo2 reveals cryptic resistance gene for bacterial blight of rice.

Bacterial blight of rice is caused by the ?-proteobacterium Xanthomonas oryzae pv. oryzae, which utilizes a group of type III TAL (transcription activator-like) effectors to induce host gene expression and condition host susceptibility. Five SWEET genes are functionally redundant to support bacterial disease, but only two were experimentally proven targets of natural TAL effectors. Here, we report the identification of the sucrose transporter gene OsSWEET13 as the disease-susceptibility gene for PthXo2 and the existence of cryptic recessive resistance to PthXo2-dependent X. oryzae pv. oryzae due to promoter variations of OsSWEET13 in japonica rice. PthXo2-containing strains induce OsSWEET13 in indica rice IR24 due to the presence of an unpredicted and undescribed effector binding site not present in the alleles in japonica rice Nipponbare and Kitaake. The specificity of effector-associated gene induction and disease susceptibility is attributable to a single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP), which is also found in a polymorphic allele of OsSWEET13 known as the recessive resistance gene xa25 from the rice cultivar Minghui 63. The mutation of OsSWEET13 with CRISPR/Cas9 technology further corroborates the requirement of OsSWEET13 expression for the state of PthXo2-dependent disease susceptibility to X. oryzae pv. oryzae. Gene profiling of a collection of 104 strains revealed OsSWEET13 induction by 42 isolates of X. oryzae pv. oryzae. Heterologous expression of OsSWEET13 in Nicotiana benthamiana leaf cells elevates sucrose concentrations in the apoplasm. The results corroborate a model whereby X. oryzae pv. oryzae enhances the release of sucrose from host cells in order to exploit the host resources.© 2015 The Authors The Plant Journal © 2015 John Wiley & Sons Ltd.


October 23, 2019  |  

Controlled delivery of ß-globin-targeting TALENs and CRISPR/Cas9 into mammalian cells for genome editing using microinjection.

Tal-effector nucleases (TALEN) and clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats (CRISPR) with CRISPR-associated (Cas) proteins are genome editing tools with unprecedented potential. However, the ability to deliver optimal amounts of these nucleases into mammalian cells with minimal toxicity poses a major challenge. Common delivery approaches are transfection- and viral-based methods; each associated with significant drawbacks. An alternative method for directly delivering genome-editing reagents into single living cells with high efficiency and controlled volume is microinjection. Here, we characterize a glass microcapillary-based injection system and demonstrate controlled co-injection of TALENs or CRISPR/Cas9 together with donor template into single K562 cells for targeting the human ß-globin gene. We quantified nuclease induced insertions and deletions (indels) and found that, with ß-globin-targeting TALENs, similar levels of on- and off-target activity in cells could be achieved by microinjection compared with nucleofection. Furthermore, we observed 11% and 2% homology directed repair in single K562 cells co-injected with a donor template along with CRISPR/Cas9 and TALENs respectively. These results demonstrate that a high level of targeted gene modification can be achieved in human cells using glass-needle microinjection of genome editing reagents.


October 23, 2019  |  

Creating and evaluating accurate CRISPR-Cas9 scalpels for genomic surgery.

The simplicity of site-specific genome targeting by type II clustered, regularly interspaced, short palindromic repeat (CRISPR)-Cas9 nucleases, along with their robust activity profile, has changed the landscape of genome editing. These favorable properties have made the CRISPR-Cas9 system the technology of choice for sequence-specific modifications in vertebrate systems. For many applications, whether the focus is on basic science investigations or therapeutic efficacy, activity and precision are important considerations when one is choosing a nuclease platform, target site and delivery method. Here we review recent methods for increasing the activity and accuracy of Cas9 and assessing the extent of off-target cleavage events.


October 23, 2019  |  

Galactofuranose in Mycoplasma mycoides is important for membrane integrity and conceals adhesins but does not contribute to serum resistance.

Mycoplasma mycoides subsp. capri (Mmc) and subsp. mycoides (Mmm) are important ruminant pathogens worldwide causing diseases such as pleuropneumonia, mastitis and septicaemia. They express galactofuranose residues on their surface, but their role in pathogenesis has not yet been determined. The M.?mycoides genomes contain up to several copies of the glf gene, which encodes an enzyme catalysing the last step in the synthesis of galactofuranose. We generated a deletion of the glf gene in a strain of Mmc using genome transplantation and tandem repeat endonuclease coupled cleavage (TREC) with yeast as an intermediary host for the genome editing. As expected, the resulting YCp1.1-?glf strain did not produce the galactofuranose-containing glycans as shown by immunoblots and immuno-electronmicroscopy employing a galactofuranose specific monoclonal antibody. The mutant lacking galactofuranose exhibited a decreased growth rate and a significantly enhanced adhesion to small ruminant cells. The mutant was also ‘leaking’ as revealed by a ß-galactosidase-based assay employing a membrane impermeable substrate. These findings indicate that galactofuranose-containing polysaccharides conceal adhesins and are important for membrane integrity. Unexpectedly, the mutant strain showed increased serum resistance. © 2015 The Authors. Molecular Microbiology published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.


October 23, 2019  |  

Efficient genome editing of a facultative thermophile using mesophilic spCas9.

Well-developed genetic tools for thermophilic microorganisms are scarce, despite their industrial and scientific relevance. Whereas highly efficient CRISPR/Cas9-based genome editing is on the rise in prokaryotes, it has never been employed in a thermophile. Here, we apply Streptococcus pyogenes Cas9 (spCas9)-based genome editing to a moderate thermophile, i.e., Bacillus smithii, including a gene deletion, gene knockout via insertion of premature stop codons, and gene insertion. We show that spCas9 is inactive in vivo above 42 °C, and we employ the wide temperature growth range of B. smithii as an induction system for spCas9 expression. Homologous recombination with plasmid-borne editing templates is performed at 45-55 °C, when spCas9 is inactive. Subsequent transfer to 37 °C allows for counterselection through production of active spCas9, which introduces lethal double-stranded DNA breaks to the nonedited cells. The developed method takes 4 days with 90, 100, and 20% efficiencies for gene deletion, knockout, and insertion, respectively. The major advantage of our system is the limited requirement for genetic parts: only one plasmid, one selectable marker, and a promoter are needed, and the promoter does not need to be inducible or well-characterized. Hence, it can be easily applied for genome editing purposes in both mesophilic and thermophilic nonmodel organisms with a limited genetic toolbox and ability to grow at, or tolerate, temperatures of 37 and at or above 42 °C.


October 23, 2019  |  

Short DNA hairpins compromise recombinant adeno-associated virus genome homogeneity.

Short hairpin (sh)RNAs delivered by recombinant adeno-associated viruses (rAAVs) are valuable tools to study gene function in vivo and a promising gene therapy platform. Our data show that incorporation of shRNA transgenes into rAAV constructs reduces vector yield and produces a population of truncated and defective genomes. We demonstrate that sequences with hairpins or hairpin-like structures drive the generation of truncated AAV genomes through a polymerase redirection mechanism during viral genome replication. Our findings reveal the importance of genomic secondary structure when optimizing viral vector designs. We also discovered that shDNAs could be adapted to act as surrogate mutant inverted terminal repeats (mTRs), sequences that were previously thought to be required for functional self-complementary AAV vectors. The use of shDNAs as artificial mTRs opens the door to engineering a new generation of AAV vectors with improved potency, genetic stability, and safety for both preclinical studies and human gene therapy. Published by Elsevier Inc.


October 23, 2019  |  

Molecular barcoding of viral vectors enables mapping and optimization of mRNA trans-splicing.

Genome editing has proven to be highly potent in the generation of functional gene knockouts in dividing cells. In the CNS however, efficient technologies to repair sequences are yet to materialize. Reprogramming on the mRNA level is an attractive alternative as it provides means to perform in situ editing of coding sequences without nuclease dependency. Furthermore, de novo sequences can be inserted without the requirement of homologous recombination. Such reprogramming would enable efficient editing in quiescent cells (e.g., neurons) with an attractive safety profile for translational therapies. In this study, we applied a novel molecular-barcoded screening assay to investigate RNA trans-splicing in mammalian neurons. Through three alternative screening systems in cell culture and in vivo, we demonstrate that factors determining trans-splicing are reproducible regardless of the screening system. With this screening, we have located the most permissive trans-splicing sequences targeting an intron in the Synapsin I gene. Using viral vectors, we were able to splice full-length fluorophores into the mRNA while retaining very low off-target expression. Furthermore, this approach also showed evidence of functionality in the mouse striatum. However, in its current form, the trans-splicing events are stochastic and the overall activity lower than would be required for therapies targeting loss-of-function mutations. Nevertheless, the herein described barcode-based screening assay provides a unique possibility to screen and map large libraries in single animals or cell assays with very high precision.© 2018 Davidsson et al.; Published by Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press for the RNA Society.


October 23, 2019  |  

Gene editing and genetic engineering approaches for advanced probiotics: A review.

The applications of probiotics are significant and thus resulted in need of genome analysis of probiotic strains. Various omics methods and systems biology approaches enables us to understand and optimize the metabolic processes. These techniques have increased the researcher’s attention towards gut microbiome and provided a new source for the revelation of uncharacterized biosynthetic pathways which enables novel metabolic engineering approaches. In recent years, the broad and quantitative analysis of modified strains relies on systems biology tools such as in silico design which are commonly used methods for improving strain performance. The genetic manipulation of probiotic microorganisms is crucial for defining their role in intestinal microbiota and exploring their beneficial properties. This review describes an overview of gene editing and systems biology approaches, highlighting the advent of omics methods which allows the study of new routes for studying probiotic bacteria. We have also summarized gene editing tools like TALEN, ZFNs and CRISPR-Cas that edits or cleave the specific target DNA. Furthermore, in this review an overview of proposed design of advanced customized probiotic is also hypothesized to improvise the probiotics.


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